On Thursday, women’s tennis Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said he hoped his team would make a statement in their games this weekend. After sweeping every match against Riverside on Friday and beating #73 Santa Clara 5-2 on Sunday, that statement sounded more like an exclamation.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the way we started this weekend,” Kirkwood said. “We really wanted this one, because Santa Clara is ranked 73rd in the nation, so we got a win over a ranked team, and it’s our goal to get into the top 75.”
The Gauchos’ win on Sunday also served as notice to the rest of the Big West Conference that after last year’s losing season, UCSB is back and dangerous. Santa Clara had come off a big win over Cal Poly, Santa Barbara’s perennial rival for the conference title, so beating Santa Clara should boost the Gauchos’ confidence against their league opponents.
“We sent a message to all the schools that we’re pretty tough this year,” #4 freshman Charlotte Scatliffe said. “We swept singles and doubles. It’s awesome; it’s just a great feeling.”
Junior Marielle Gruenig, the Gauchos’ #1, overcame a personal hurdle when she beat Riverside’s Michelle Beyronneau after going 0-3 against her in the past. Kirkwood said Gruenig has improved tremendously since last year, and her improvement in the #1 spot should help the team win many more games.
“She’s playing so much better than last year,” Kirkwood said. “She’s playing a lot more confidently and aggressively. On Friday, she had never beaten that girl before. She’s not afraid to be the #1 now. It takes a certain mentality to be the #1 player, and she’s got it.”
Newcomers Scatliffe and Chelsea Glynn, a junior transfer, both played huge roles this weekend. Scatliffe teamed up with Gruenig to win both #1 doubles matches, and she also won both of her singles matches. Glynn, playing doubles with junior Mio Fukushima, provided one of the highlights of the weekend by leading an incredible comeback rally over Santa Clara’s #2 doubles team. After trailing 7-2, Glynn and Fukushima won five straight games to tie the match, then won the tiebreaker two games later to win 9-8 and guarantee UCSB the doubles point.
“A lot of the matches that we lost last year, we lost the doubles point,” Scatliffe said. “Coming into our first two matches and winning the doubles point feels great.”